Intellectual disabilities and sex

Questions and discussion about your sexual lives, choices, activities, ideas and experiences.
fpcs00
newbie
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Aug 14, 2017 11:34 pm
My pronouns: she/her
Location: Milan

Intellectual disabilities and sex

Unread postby fpcs00 » Tue Aug 15, 2017 12:59 am

Hey,

I've been reading the Sex & Disabilities series with great interest, hoping to find an answer to a question that's been haunting me for a long time. So far I haven't found it, so I'm asking here.

Last year a friend of mine almost killed herself after an argument that's still unresolved. She had a relationship with a girl from our class who had Down syndrome (she was 16 and the girl 18 but we were in the same class), and one time she admitted that there was something sexual going on too, at which point another girl from our clique totally flipped and said that was terrible, it was basically rape, because the girl with Down syndrome couldn't possibly consent because of her intellectual disabilities. It's true that, I'll call her P now (I don't want to call her "the girl with Down syndrome" all the time, she's more than that), that P did not always understand everything that was going on around her, but we all loved her and tried to include her in everything we were doing as well as we could. But this fight changed it all, my friend broke off all contact because she was afraid that the other girl might be right and she had abused P, even though she said it did not feel anything like that... and the really terrible thing that still haunts me is when she said, "but does that mean she (P) never can have sex just because she's intellectually disabled?" I don't think that's right, it can't be, but I haven't been able to find a good answer to that anywhere. I'm not even sure if it's okay that I'm asking that since it doesn't affect me personally, at least directly, but I really really would like to have some closure on that, or at least an opinion that's not just angry confused girls yelling at each other like we did.

Sorry for the unloading. I'd really appreciate it if you can give me a perspective on this.
Thanks, F.

fpcs00
newbie
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Aug 14, 2017 11:34 pm
My pronouns: she/her
Location: Milan

Re: Intellectual disabilities and sex

Unread postby fpcs00 » Tue Aug 15, 2017 1:01 am

I forgot to add, my friend was 16 at the time and P was 18 if that makes any difference.

Redskies
not a newbie
Posts: 1281
Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2014 11:33 am
My primary language: English
My pronouns: they/them or she/her
My sexual identity and orientation: bisexual/queer/pansexual
Location: Europe

Re: Intellectual disabilities and sex

Unread postby Redskies » Tue Aug 15, 2017 10:09 am

Hi fpcs00, welcome to the boards! I'm glad you asked us about this.

Your question
""but does that mean she (P) never can have sex just because she's intellectually disabled?" I don't think that's right, it can't be"
- you're spot on that that's not right at all. Intellectually disabled people have a sexual self, a sexuality, and sexual feelings, as all people do. Intellectually disabled people have the same rights as everyone else to consensual sexual expression and consensual sex.

Many, many intellectually disabled people (some of whom I'm sure are reading along right now - hello, friends!) are able to consent to sex, so it's definitely wrong to think that an intellectually disabled person couldn't consent simply because they're disabled. Sadly, though, it's very common that non-disabled people think intellectual disability = cannot consent, which may well be where your outspoken friend got that idea from. Unfortunately, the belief that intellectually disabled people cannot consent to sex is very ableist. It comes from non-disabled people's mistaken ideas and prejudices about disabled people, rather than from the actual lives and realities of disabled people.

It is true, of course, that a minority of intellectually disabled people cannot give meaningful consent to sex: if, for example, a person truly could not understand what they were doing, or had no way of communicating their wishes, or was unable to decline consent. (It's worth noting that those conditions also sometimes happen in various circumstances for non-disabled people, too!)

We can't meaningfully comment on whether your friend P could consent or not, because we don't know P and don't have P's input on what they wanted or how they felt. But: P not always understanding what's going on doesn't mean they couldn't consent to sex: ability to consent to sex isn't determined by ability to grasp everything else in the world, only the ability to freely grasp and communicate about the sexual interaction with that person. Unless P has communicated that they were unhappy or confused or coerced or unable to communicate, there's no reason from what you said to think that there was any rape or abuse here.

It is worth my adding that yes, it is important for a partner or prospective partner to take care with consent, and make sure that the intellectually disabled person is able to interact and think in a way that suits the disabled person and not just the non-disabled person, because rates of abuse of intellectually disabled people are much higher than of the general population, for many reasons. Whoever a partner is, it's always important to only engage them in ways that they can understand, feel safe with, and can communicate about.

I'm not surprised that you couldn't find a good answer. While I was looking for further resources to link for you, I found little that is truly of use to intellectually disabled people: there was either a massive lack of anything about sexuality, or a small amount of information aimed at how to teach disabled people about consent. And, of course, there was a huge amount of really horrible, objectionable and misguided stuff on the general internet which left me feeling like I need brain bleach. I did find one thing I'd like to share with you, which you might also find helpful to share with your friendship group, if you and they both want it: https://www.mencap.org.uk/about-us/what ... t-we-think Mencap is a UK charity for advice, support and advocacy for intellectually disabled people. The specifics of laws, for example, will be different in different countries, but I thought it might be helpful for you to see how they talk about this. For example:
What we want
We want people with a learning disability to be able to develop positive, informed, healthy and safe intimate or sexual relationships.


Does what I've said make sense to you? How are you doing with figuring out what you think about the tangle in your friendship group?

We're happy to talk with you further about any of this, if you'd like.
The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

Iwanthelp
not a newbie
Posts: 91
Joined: Tue Jan 13, 2015 5:28 am
My Awesomeness Quotient: idk
My primary language: English
My pronouns: she, cis so no real issues if I'm misgendered
My sexual identity and orientation: bisexual. turns out biromantic as well so yay
Location: Scotland

Re: Intellectual disabilities and sex

Unread postby Iwanthelp » Wed Aug 16, 2017 4:36 am

If it helps people with down syndrome have come out as saying that the idea they can't have relationships or are 'mentally children' is patronizing as hell.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAPmGW-GDHA


Also found this webpage on down syndrome+sex education basically - the consensus I got from it was 'they might need individually-tailored and more frequent sex ed but they can consent', though I guess that falls into the 'couldn't find x but could only find z' redskies mentioned above with the 'resources to teach disabled people about consent' thing so maybe that's not what's being looked for in terms of answers here. Idk I've not been awake for long but the video series linked above is good.

http://www.ndss.org/Resources/Wellness/ ... -Syndrome/

fpcs00
newbie
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Aug 14, 2017 11:34 pm
My pronouns: she/her
Location: Milan

Re: Intellectual disabilities and sex

Unread postby fpcs00 » Sat Aug 19, 2017 1:40 pm

Thank you so much for your answers, both of you! That meshes about with what I would have thought instinctively, but I was repeatedly thrown by the "she's like a child" kind of argument. I think I see now how that's a false equivalence (and a deflection, obviously), and I think it's really helpful (and the only right way really) to think about this from the perspective of the disabled person and their rights and needs. The "patronizing as hell" part really drove this home -- it's not like that is "our" decision. Thanks again!

Redskies
not a newbie
Posts: 1281
Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2014 11:33 am
My primary language: English
My pronouns: they/them or she/her
My sexual identity and orientation: bisexual/queer/pansexual
Location: Europe

Re: Intellectual disabilities and sex

Unread postby Redskies » Wed Aug 23, 2017 6:56 am

I'm glad we were helpful, and you're welcome! For what it's worth, I think you absolutely hit the nail on the head there.

Yep yep, disabled teens or adults are definitely not children or like children. There's a fair few non-disabled people around who put out that opinion pretty forcefully, but they're just plain wrong. As the folk said in the video Iwanthelp linked!

(I did really appreciate that video you linked, Iwanthelp, and the others in the series. So many awesomely cool and smart people, and the hilarious snark! Those videos really brightened our day in my multiply-disabled household. So thanks for that :) )
The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.


Return to “Sex & Sexuality”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests